June 19th, 2007 - by ses5909

Quite often when developers create a website they typically design for the latest version of Firefox and IE. While in general this will cover the majority of the users, there are other browsers you should test the site in to make sure you take into consideration your other users. Unfortunately, with various operating systems and compatibility issues, it’s not always that easy. Hopefully this guide can get you started.

With IE7 out, you would think that most people have upgraded their browser, but that just isn’t the case. For some people IE6 was good enough for them and they don’t want Windows pushing down an update. Also, a lot of people aren’t signed up for automatic updates. So how do you handle this? A few months ago I came across this nice little app that lets you install and run multiple versions of IE. Once I installed IE7 there was no going back to 6, until I found this cool little tool. If you need to test in multiple versions of IE, this is the way to go. You can find the various versions of IE for download at evolt.

Safari users have always been a unique bunch and a very small minority; one worth considering though. I created an outline for this post a couple of weeks ago, and for testing I was going to recommend swift as it’s built on Apple’s WebCore engine; since then however, a beta version of Safari 3.0 has been released which includes support for Windows users now! Before this release, developers didn’t have a good way of testing websites on Safari without having access to a Mac. Swift worked SOMETIMES but I routinely had issues with it. I know my mac friends just LOVED me bugging them to test a site for me. I have tried several sites out with Safari since downloading it and am pleased with the results. Get the latest version of Safari from Apple.

Opera! There is no reason NOT to test your sites in Opera. It is available for *nix platforms as well as Mac and Windows. How they scored this domain I have no idea, but to download the latest version, go to Opera.com.

What about all 5623 other browsers? Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but you can see a full list of browsers at evolt. Something else I use to help me test my sites is a browsercam subscription. You may be quite shocked at some of the pricing but if you find a BrowserCam Groupe Purchase to piggy back on, you can get a year for $25 which is WELL worth it. I use mine quite frequently. You can get screenshots of what your url looks like in various browsers on various operating systems. It’s been invaluable to me. Click on the image for a larger size:

So do you have any special browsers you test in or special tricks to share? I have given my standard suggestions, but would love to hear more.

12 Responses to “Browser Testing Made Easy”

1 Golgotha

I haven’t tried the Windows Safari yet, but I haven’t heard good things.

I didn’t know about that tool that allows you to have multiple versions of IE, so thanks for that.

2 bigalreturns

I’ve been using the IE Net Renderer service a lot recently. It’s free and will render IE5,6 & 7 in your browser for you. As an amateur web designer, who is unwilling to spend money on BrowserCam, this is invaluable.

3 John

I’m using Safari on Windows and have had no problems. I think most of the problems have to do with having too many fonts installed. I don’t have that many installed permanently but rather use a Font Manager utility for temporarily installing fonts, so maybe that’s why I’ve had no trouble.

A comment on going back to IE6 from IE7, as far as I know, all you have to do is uninstall IE7 from your control panel and I think Windows automatically rolls back to IE6.

And a comment on Browsercam, I’ve actually found the Remote Access service to be far more useful than their screen capture service. (Having said that, I’ve had a lot of trouble actually being able to use their service lately due to changes they made to IP detection.)

4 vhgdesign

I got a $25 Group Purchase at BrowserCam. Great services. I recommend them 🙂

5 ses5909

I hadn’t see that bigal.. thanks for the link. And for browsercam, if you get on a group purchase it is EXTREMELY affordable for even the most amateur designer at $25/year. I just renewed my subscription in fact.

John, i would love to see the font manager utility you are using. Do you have a link? I also haven’t had a problem with safari and have just the standard fonts plus a few extra installed. Re: browsercam, I have yet to use the remote access features. Care to elaborate more on them?

6 LGR

I really like the BrowserCam service, and the screen capture service is good, but I use the remote access service and it is great! Not only can you see what the site looks like in multiple browsers, you can use the site in multiple browsers. This is great for sites where you need to test features in and not just to see how it looks but make sure the Javascript works across browsers or degrades nicely.

I’ll have to look into the group purchase. Could save me some money thanks.

7 MrSpooky

Be sure to check out the browser archive at evolt.org (http://browsers.evolt.org). Its a great resource to find obscure browsers and have a good rip down memory lane. I’m not sure how current they keep it these days, but I used to host a mirror for them a couple of years ago.

8 Dan Schulz

Something I tell people all the time on various Web site design/development forums is to test in the four major rendering engines (Trident, Gecko, Presto, KHTML/WebKit) rather than browsers. Especially with regard to Gecko-based browsers such as Epiphany, Camino, Firefox, Galeon, K-Meleon, DocZilla, Iceweasel, Netscape (6+ – in fact, Netscape 9 was released not too long ago), and so on.

What I do is use the IE standalones (don’t forget that you have to make some registry changes[1] if you want conditional comments to work) to test in IE 5.01, IE 5.5, and IE 6 alongside my actual installation of IE 7, Firefox 1.0.3, Firefox 1.5, Firefox 2.0, Opera 9.21 (I always use the latest build of Opera, in fact, I wish I still had my build of Opera 8.5), Konqueror 3 and Safari 2. The latter two were the exclusive domain of friends who’d let me “bum” off their browsers until Safari 3 beta was ported to Windows, and now there’s talk about Konqueror (and the KDE engine) being ported to Windows with version 4, so soon there’s going to be no need to even own a non-Windows computer or VM just to test Web sites cross-browser.

The thing to remember about Firefox is that even though you can run multiple copies at the same time, you’ll be stuck with the first version of the Gecko engine being used for all instances (meaning if you open up 1.5, then 1.0 and 2.0, they’ll all use 1.5 – I know it sounds weird, but it’s true). Fortunately there are a couple of ways around that.[2],[3]

[1] http://www.positioniseverything.net/articles/multiIE.html
[2] http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3126852#post3126852
[3] http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3127693#post3127693

Just make sure that you set up a systems restore point before installing anything, or writing a batch file, hacking a program or whatnot so you can roll back if something goes horribly wrong. Also be sure to test in each browser you intend to support as you go along rather than waiting until the end.

9 Boris

I think the other browser to test is konqueror, since it has a different rendering engine than the others.

On my website, less than 1% of my visitors are using konqueror, so if something don’t look exactly the same, it’s not THAT bad, but you should make sure that it’s usable.

10 ses5909

For those that want to get in on a group purchase, I just saw a new one begin:

https://www.fundable.org/groupactions/groupaction.2007-06-23.5838808216/view?searchterm=browsercam

11 Dr. MK

Thanks for the link. $25 for one year subscription (unlimited access to the Capture service and unlimited access to 60-minute Remote Access sessions) is a bargain. I just pledged $25.

Anybody else interested? We need 20 people.

12 kmchong

Hey there!
I’m the acting Product Manager for BrowserCam and have great news to share! We’ve released a couple of weeks ago a great Firefox extension named Gomez WebInsight that integrates our Capture Service directly into your Firefox browser. It’ll allow you to basically submit any site to capture, even sites behind logged in forms. More info on the extension can be found here. In addition to that, there is even a demo presentation here.

The best thing is, we’ve enabled trial users free 200 trial captures, and no time limit if you sign up for a trial account using this tool. And, if you use the referral tool in this extension, every referred person that activates an account with us gets you more free captures.

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